Carolina: Cruising Past 70

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Unique Scenes, Unusual Stories, and Beautiful People in Two Small Magical Mexican Towns

One of the best things we did on this trip was to drive down to Mazatlan despite the warnings (see this previous post). Our car has been so handy for drives to Walmart and the mall, the dentist, and the art galleries. But it is the day trips to the small towns around the city that has been the best blessing of all. These two separate day trips have given us many delightful memories to treasure and to share.

El Quelite to the North

My husband’s college fraternity brother sailed from La Paz in the Baja Peninsula into the Marina Mazatlan beside El Cid’s La Marina Resort Hotel and Spa. It was an easy four-minute shuttle ride for us to meet him, visit the boat, “Derive”, and have lunch at El Cid’s La Terraza. We invited him to join us two days later on a trip to this famously cute town many people were raving about. It is north of Mazatlan, about forty minutes away. The town didn’t appear on our GPS so we had a MapQuest sheet to guide us.

As luck would have it, we got lost. We followed Mexico 15D, the toll road instead of Mexico 15, the libre (toll-free) road, and they were unusually far from each other. We found this out when we sought help at a truck stop. In my broken Spanish, aided by similar Filipino words owing to Spain’s 333-rule of my home country, I asked the truckers who were having their rest and some snacks, “Donde esta El Quelite?”   All of them, including the lady storekeepers, felt dumbfounded to reply because they didn’t speak any English. A brave fellow proceeded to patiently communicate to me how to get there. Lo and behold, I understood him perfectly because he so wanted to help. I had met a beautiful Mexican!

After an hour and fifteen minutes, we approached the town from Mexico 15 and bougainvilleas of all colors greeted us on both sides of the road. It was my utter luck that a yellow arch marked the entry to the lone street and the colorful homes on both sides. On the right, we saw a plazuela with a statue of a man playing the game ulama. The country is reviving this ancient sport. The oldest ballcourt is dated 1400 BC.

All the cars in town were parked at El Meson de Los Laureanos. You won’t believe the art and decor, the roosters and horses, all the colorful nooks and corners, and all thriving plants and people inside. It was the energy of Mexico in a nutshell. The food heartily complemented the lively atmosphere. We were immediately served with the traditional Sinaloan snack, coyotas. Our order of barbacoa de res (beef), carnitas de puerco (pork), and cordoniz (quail) a la parilla with arroz, tortilla, frijoles, salsa, and pico de gallo arrived soon after we made our order. It seemed to be consumed just as fast. Dessert was a selection of complementary Sinaloan specialties: candied papaya, squash, and sweet potatoes and leche quemada (burnt milk).

There is another restaurant in town, the Hacienda Tequilera Mi Quelite.  We wondered why it was absolutely empty in stark contrast.  We found the owner to be so kind and polite. He asked us if we wanted to see his little secret at the back. It was a small zoo with his precious collection of a family of llamas, a lone donkey, several peacocks, lots of rabbits, fighting cocks and pigs, and a beautiful banyan tree in the middle. We offered him a couple hundred pesos for the tour but he graciously refused. I had met another beautiful Mexican. Hopefully, he will be given a chance by tourists. We will next time!

El Rosario to the South

We also wanted to visit another Magico Pueblo (Magical Town), a program launched by the Ministry of Tourism in 2001. So far there have been 121 named. The first one we saw was Teotihuacan near Mexico City (see this previous post) and the second was Todos Santos to which we took a day trip from San Jose del Cabo (see this previous post) El Rosario is only an hour south of Mazatlan. We invited another couple to join us. The drive was beautiful with all the beautiful agave and mango plantations on both sides of the highway.

Our GPS listed only one attraction, El Museo de Lola Beltran. When we got there, we hesitated to go in; we didn’t know who she was. But the admission fee was just $1 for all four of us. We found out that María Lucila Beltrán Ruiz (7 March 1932 – 24 March 1996) was an acclaimed Mexican singer of Ranchera music and a movie and TV personality. She was internationally renowned for her interpretation of "Cucurrucucú Paloma" which I knew by heart when I was young, owing to our shared history with Spain.

And that’s where we met Carmelita, a grandniece of the grand old lady, who proceeded to graciously tour us around town. She is another beautiful Mexican.  Across the Museo stands Las Ruinas which is what remains of the parochial temple that crumbled circa 1931. Minas del Tajo was mining a large silver belt that was discovered right under it. The town’s faithful painstakingly transferred the beloved temple, stone by stone, to this site. Close by is the lagoon at the old entrance to the mine and the old site of the temple. It was created by the flood waters from the 1935 Super Cyclone. There now stands a beautiful suspension bridge and recreation park at the center which the townsfolk lovingly call Isla del Iguanero.

Then Carmelita led us to the El Tiro San Antonio (Casa de Lola), a restaurant run by her twin brother, billed as the place where the song Paloma was born. It was right on Calle Beltran that had a statue of Lola herself at the intersection with the main street in town. The colorful walls are filled with mementos of Lola Beltran, just like at the Museo. They served us a hefty lunch of tacos de camarones, asada de res, pollo frito, enchiladas verdes, and candied camotes for dessert, all for only US $25 for all of us!

After lunch, we had a quick trip to the Museum of Regional History of El Rosario, built in what was formerly the Municipal Prison, as of seven years ago. That is where the glorious history of one of the wealthiest towns in Mexico in the past and the mining industry that led to the founding of the port of Mazatlan was told to us. Nearby is the Los Arcos Virreinales (Colonial Arch) which was the old bus station during the mining town’s heyday that lasted for 300 years.
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pinnable image

Our last stop was the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary in front of which is a plazuela with another statue of Lola Beltran. Built from 1758 to 1771, the church has an elaborate baroque style and a spectacularly intricate gilded altar inside. There are two places where you can have souvenir photos taken: the colorful town sign and a pair of golden wings. Both will have the church as a background.

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pinnable image

As you can see, these are memories that are a treasure. They are both near enough to Mazatlan that we can revisit them anytime we want to when we are there for our annual three month holiday. Definitely, we will take our guests to them, especially those who have already visited many beach resort towns and want to see the magical side of  Mexico.